A few years ago, Mercedes Benz stopped playing around, and jumped into building hybrids . . . sort of. The 2010 Mercedes Benz S400 Hybrid is the forerunner of a new line of hybrid models Mercedes-Benz will be coming out with in the near future. Wisely, Mercedes Benz designed the hybrid system in a series of modules, which will make it adaptable to a wide range of individual models.
Talk of the 2010 S400 Hybrid is apparently already making a big splash in Europe, but most American reviewers seem under-whelmed. Unfortunately, from the American perspective, the Mercedes-Benz hybrid system is a mild hybrid that provides some improvement over standard models, but simply doesn’t offer the diverse power options we’ve come to expect in a hybrid. The European market has seen far more pure electric cars then we have in America, but not quite as much in the way of hybrids, so perhaps what’s old hat to us, is a surprise for them.
As potentially disappointing as the mild hybrid system is, in all other ways the S400 delivers impressively, including some surprising improvements in hybrid application. Mercedes-Benz has managed to integrate the two separate power systems in a way that allows a totally smooth feel other hybrids can only dream of. They have also created new battery technology that has such benefits as: keeping the battery cool, so it is always functioning at peak efficiency, a faster charge process, and increased electrical efficiency. (We’re told between the drive train and battery, Mercedes-Benz has around 45 new patents riding in the S400.) The battery is also significantly more compact then the typical hybrid battery, allowing it to be fit in under the hood, rather then taking up trunk space, and current hybrid batteries do.
Of course, as we would expect of Mercedes-Benz, this car is built for the open road, and lives up the classic look and feel of the S-class in every way. In addition, the hybrid design allows ultra-quick response and smooth, power conserving delivery in stop and go situations (whether downtown traffic lights, or rush hour commuting).
In fact, the only real complaint I’ve seen from those lucky enough to get a chance to drive the S400 Hybrid, is that Mercedes-Benz did not manage to duplicate the smooth system integration of the power train in the braking system. The transition from mechanical braking to regenerative braking has been described as having an ‘unnatural’ feel.
Still, for a first hybrid the 2010 S400 is highly impressive, and even it isn’t the hybrid some people were hoping for, it is certainly a quintessential Mercedes Benz.